The 2008 volleyball season was a disappointment at Circle, even with a 27-12 record.
"I don't think they felt like they lived up to the Circle tradition," said Circle coach Shelly Nibarger, whose team plays in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division IV. "We placed third in the league for the first time since 1991. We didn't play in the sub-state finals, and we had played in them since 1991.
"They didn't get anything up on the wall, and our wall is full. It has motivated them this year."
Circle is 22-11 after taking second to Conway Springs in the Thunderbirds' tournament on Saturday.
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The T-birds are in position to battle for the AV-CTL IV title, but it hasn't been easy.
The Thunderbirds returned four starters — junior hitters Kyrstie Ehm and Hanna Flaming, both three-year starters, and seniors Ally Burden (setter) and Taci Richard (middle).
Yet the T-birds opened the season 0-2, losing to league foes Andale and Clearwater.
"It was humbling," Nibarger said. "It just made us go back to work.... One of the goals of our seniors at the beginning was to reclaim the league title, and then we started 0-2. We've clawed our way back."
Rose Hill only has one league loss — to Circle — while Circle has two, losing to Clearwater and Andale. Rose Hill and Circle play each other on Oct. 20 in a quadrangular that includes Augusta and Buhler.
Nibarger tried to strengthen her schedule this season. She added the Ottawa tournament on Oct. 3. While the Thunderbirds finished 2-3, two of those losses were to Blue Valley West and Shawnee Mission West, Class 6A schools.
"We leave there a much better team," she said.
This week — Northwest plays Kapaun tonight at South, while Hillsboro is at Collegiate. Clearwater, Circle and Wellington are at Andover.
Rose Hill, Augusta, Andale are at Andover Central.
On Thursday, Wichita Trinity plays host to Maize and Bishop Carroll.
Saturday's tournaments include Goddard, Clearwater and St. Thomas Aquinas.